Hanna, Norman Edmond (No. J/14348)

Hanna, Norman Edmond (Norman)

Flying Officer

No. J/14348, 201 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force

Died as a result of enemy action on Saturday 18 December 1943 (aged 22)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England (Panel 173)

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Internet)

Canadian Second World War Book of Remembrance (Page 167)

Bangor and District War Memorial

First Bangor Presbyterian Church

Bangor Grammar School            


Norman Edmond Hanna was born on 15 November 1921 and he was the youngest son of Samuel and Elizabeth Hanna (nee Hardy) of 20 Rosewood Street, Belfast and later 6 Hazeldene Park, Bangor.  Samuel Hanna was a bespoke tailor and he and Elizabeth Hardy were married on 31 March 1902 in Ballysillan Presbyterian Church, Belfast.  Samuel Hanna from Belfast was a son of Samuel Hanna, a flax dresser.  Elizabeth hardy from Belfast was a daughter of Louis Hardy, a cook.

Samuel and Elizabeth Hanna (nee Hardy) had at least four children:

Margaret (Madge, born 10 February 1903 at 9 Bray Street, Belfast)

Victor Louis (born 7 April 1905 at 9 Bray Street, Belfast)

Samuel (born 21 August 1907 at 9 Bray Street, Belfast)

Norman Edmond (born 15 November 1921)

Described by the Headmaster as a ‘good all-round scholar’, Norman Edmond Hanna attended Bangor Grammar School from 1934 until 1939 and he left after gaining his Senior Certificate.  He had entered the school with a Junior Down Regional Scholarship.  He was a strong swimmer, he played rugby and he excelled at drawing.  At school he and William Francis Ernest Gault were close friends.

At the age of 17 Norman Hanna set sail from Belfast on 1 September 1939 aboard the SS Athenia to go to Canada and work in Montreal. The SS Athenia was torpedoed and sunk on 3 September by the German submarine U-30, just a few hours after the declaration of war. At the time Norman was on deck recovering from seasickness and he got away in a lifeboat that he had helped to launch. More than 100 people, including Civilian Margaret Lennon, lost their lives.  After being rescued by the American freighter, SS City of Flint Norman turned down the offer of returning to Britain on a British destroyer and instead opted to carry on to Halifax aboard the SS City of Flint (this ship was torpedoed and sunk on 23 January 1943 by the German submarine U-575). Norman Hanna arrived in Canada in 1939 with just the clothes he was wearing, and he went to stay with his brother Victor in Montreal.  It was in Montreal that Norman joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941.

On 17 December 1943 Flying Officer Norman Edmond Hanna was one of 19 Air Force personnel (including the crew) aboard a Short Sunderland Mark III aircraft (DW106) that took off from Pembroke Dock at 11.45 pm bound for Jui in Gambia, West Africa (via Gibraltar).  They were on a transfer operation when their aircraft disappeared without trace.  Norman Hanna and nine of the other men on the plane that was lost were being transferred from 201 Squadron to 270 Squadron (both Squadrons operated anti-submarine patrols). 201 Squadron was based in Castle Archdale in County Fermanagh and they flew their patrols out to sea over the Donegal Corridor.

Another Sunderland aircraft following DW106 received a distress signal near Cape St. Vincent, Portugal.  No trace of the aircraft, or of the people on board, was ever found and it has been surmised that the aircraft was shot down by a German fighter plane – although the possibility of a lightening strike or mechanical failure being the cause of the crash could not be ruled out.  In addition to Flying Officer Norman Edmond Hanna, the other 18 airmen who lost their lives that day were:

  • Flight Lieutenant John Eric Wood (aged 22) from Sheffield
  • Flying Officer Reginald Robert T. Crump (aged 24) from Short Heath, Staffordshire
  • Pilot Officer Neil Procter Chapman (aged 23), Royal Australian Air Force
  • Warrant Officer Frederic Raymond Brown DFM (aged 27) from Ilkley, Yorkshire
  • Flying Officer Edward James Jay (aged 23) from Morden, Surrey
  • Flight Sergeant Francis McPhee from Glasgow
  • Flight Sergeant Charles Albert Mark Barber (aged 28), Royal Australian Air Force
  • Flight Sergeant Eric Piggott Botting (aged 24) from Haywards Heath, Sussex
  • Flight Sergeant Leslie Robinson (aged 23) from Whitehaven, Cumberland
  • Flying Officer Vernon Maurice Sparkes (aged 25) from Barry, Glamorgan
  • Flying Officer Raymond John Elderfield (aged 26) from Reading, Berkshire
  • Flight Sergeant Maurice Robert Hunt (aged 20) from Rampton, Nottinghamshire
  • Sergeant Samuel Hughes (aged 22) from Wolverhampton
  • Sergeant Edmund Albert Hooker (aged 27) from Pinner, Middlesex
  • Sergeant William Henry Cryer from Gloucester
  • Sergeant Henry Leonard Thompson (aged 23) from Brockley, London
  • Sergeant William Peter Houston (aged 21) from Newton-by-Chester, Cheshire
  • Flying Officer Stanley Kidd (aged 20) from Newcastle-on-Tyne

Having been initially reported as missing in action it was later officially confirmed that he must be presumed to have been killed in action on 18 December 1943.  His body was never recovered.  In subsequent years, his parents placed Roll of Honour notices in the County Down Spectator as did his sister and brother-in-law Madge and Alex Walker who lived at 20 Sandringham Drive, Bangor.  (During the First World War Alexander Stewart Walker served with the 16th Battalion, Royal Scots and he was wounded, temporarily blinded by gas and taken prisoner in April 1918.  During the Second World War he served with the Home Guard).  One of the newspaper notices about Norman Edmond Hanna contained the text:

So dearly loved, so sadly missed

Flying Officer Norman Edmond Hanna (No. J/14348) was 22 when he died and he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey; on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial (Internet); on Page 167 in the Canadian Second World War Book of Remembrance; on Bangor and District War Memorial; in First Bangor Presbyterian Church and in Bangor Grammar School.